Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Feeding the Muse?? #amwriting #writingcommunity

So, as I’m sitting in my writing office catching up on my blog post reading, I run across an interesting post. It’s a great article on cultivating and recharging your creative energies. These things are all on my to-do list. Maybe I should take a break and do something other than write for a day. Then again, my nest is empty right now, so I should …

“A-hem.”

I look up from my laptop and check my non-existant watch. “Yep. Figured you’d show up about now.”

My Muse responds with an exasperated sigh. “I’ve been here, love.” He slides the ottoman–which really serves no purpose except as someplace to set my laptop when I get up from my recliner–toward him and settles on it, elbows on his knees. He must have a drawer full of fisherman’s sweaters; the one he’s wearing now is a heathered maroon. The black sweatpants aren’t as chic as the sweater, but hey, just about anything looks good on him.

“How many of those yumm–er, cozy sweaters do you have?”

An eyebrow arches. “Enough. Look, I’m not here to discuss my wardrobe.”

“Ohh, great subject. So, where did you get them? Scotland? Ireland? Are they all wool, or …”

His blue eyes lock to mine. “You’re stalling.”

It’s getting a little warm in here. I shove my sleeves to my elbows. “I’m writing.”

“You aren’t working on your WIP. You should have at least half your word quota done by now.”

“I do. The words are just in my blog post.”

“Not where they need to be, are they?” He shakes his head. “I do give you credit for trying.” He shakes a finger at me. “Try harder.”

“You know, I ran across this great blog article about …”

“Feeding the muse?” His mouth curls up at the edges. “You do realize the article is talking about the writer not the muse, don’t you?”

I open my mouth to answer, then shut it.

“It’s about opening yourself to creative energy. All those things, they encourage you to be more receptive to me. Your Muse.”

This time I concentrate on keeping my mouth shut, because I could go so many places with that. Oh boy, sooo many places.

And it is definitely getting warmer in here.

“Reading, dabbling in other creative activities, taking time to unplug and do something not specifically creative but something to help you quiet your mind. All those things make my job easier.” He retrieves a beer from the mini-fridge. “But …”

I knew it. Of course there’s a catch.

“They are not excuses to not write.” He bends until he’s level with me. “Not excuses. You do these things, and then you write, because these things help you call up creative energy. Understand?”

I swallow hard. “Yes.”

“Say it, love.”

“I can do the things, then I have to take advantage of the energy and write.”

He sits back on the ottoman. “Close enough. You have a whole day with an empty nest. I expect you to write double your quota.”

It’s going to be a nice weekend, balmy. We’ve had below zero wind chills, -20 and colder, the past two days, so I’m looking forward to temps around freezing 😀 It’ll be a nice day for a walk.

In any case, check out the article. It’s a good reminder to recharge your creative batteries every so often. I haven’t been reading much lately, but I find listening to “new age” instrumental music helps stir up my writing juices. What is your go-to activity that helps you “feed your muse”?

Have a productive and creative writing weekend!


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Non-traditional Protagonists #amwriting #amreading #mystery #writingcommunity

We’re all familiar with mysteries, right? In the many flavors of the mystery genre (and there are SOOO many), each sub-genre has typical protagonists.

How many sub-genres? Sheesh. I could do a whole series of posts on just the various mystery sub-genres. Just for fun, I did a quick (Ha!) search. Here’s a short list of links:

I’ll wait for a minute while you check them out.

Point being, for each sub-genre there are the traditional, or should I say expected protagonists. Cozies often have some craft or food involved, or clever pets, bookshops, or sewing circles. Police procedurals have a jaded cop, retired cop, or cop who was terminated for a mistake and is now a PI or consultant. Noir has the hard-boiled, hard drinking, hard smoking PI that Humphrey Bogart would play on screen. (Seriously. Have you ever read Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler and not imagined Bogey as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe?)

Amateur sleuths and cozies go hand-in-hand. Entrepreneurs seem popular, and not just any small business owner, but a woman with a bakery, or a woman with a bookstore, or a woman with a fabric store, or a woman with a dog-sitting/cat-sitting/hamster-sitting business. A circle of women who knit/crochet/read books/play bridge. A priest who sees an unusual number of deaths in an English hamlet. Male PIs (with apologies to Kinsey Millhone and V. I. Warshawski). Male cops. There are more female cops these days, but still.

Traditional characters in traditional roles. Sure, you can create sort of non-traditional characters in these roles. A protagonist with a significant handicap: Lincoln Rhyme (quadriplegic), Pen Wilkenson (paraplegic). The detective/PI/cop of color/LGBQT/underrepresented ethnicity.

There’s something comforting about picking up a book with a cat and a ball of yarn on the front and reading about the knitting circle’s latest mystery, but what’s the fun in that? I’m thinking non-traditional occupations, like female aircraft mechanic or female auto mechanic.

This week we had our monthly Sisters in Crime chapter meeting, during which we spotlight an author, published or not, who reads a bit from their work. This month our author read part of her story. Her POV character is a woman who inherited an auto repair shop. Her best employee is a female auto mechanic. Reminded me of Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson.

So. Cool. I talked to the author a bit about non-traditional protagonists. Her question: why don’t we see more of them?

*raises hand* I know! I know!

Because publishers aren’t sure readers will relate to them.

Seriously. That’s what they said when my agent was shopping my manuscript. Great story, not sure about the female aircraft mechanic. Now, if she was a flight attendant …

So, the moral of the story? Do it. Create a character who is not like the others in their chosen occupation. This works best, of course, if the author knows the character’s non-traditional occupation well, which is the case no matter what you write. Not only does it give readers insight into an occupation they may not be familiar with, it assures them that “breaking the mold” is okay, and works.

I’ll be in San Diego next month for the 2020 Left Coast Crime convention: Murder’s a Beach. So excited! If you are going to be there, let me know. Maybe we can say ‘Hi’ in person! If you are looking for an awesome writers’ conference, check out the UW Writers’ Institute. You won’t be disappointed (unless you’re looking for me, because I won’t be there this year).

Until then, keep writing! Just think, we’re almost halfway through February already 😮


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New month, renewed focus? #amwriting

So, it’s finally February. Here in MN, we’ve had the longest run of cloudy days ever recorded. Seriously. They’ve talked about it on the news.

Granted, it’s been mild. Balmy, even. Our temps have been running at or just below freezing, helped a bit by the insulating cloud cover.

However, I’m starting to wonder if the sun is just a rumor. Someone said they saw it, or a facsimile of it, for about 30 seconds the other day.

So, what has this got to do with writing? Beside the whole gloomy atmosphere? Nothing. Well, maybe something. I was all ready to make up for a lack of writing this week, considering I’m doing a self-imposed NaNoWriMo to get the draft of my rural MN mystery done, and then … crash. Kids are home, and drama (son is reeling from his girlfriend of three years dumping him, and daughter’s confident plan of working at the place she did over winter break got torpedoed), so I need to shift into mom mode rather than “I’m going to shut myself away in the bedroom and write tonight” mode.

Mom mode isn’t terribly conducive to writing, at least for me. There’s the part of me that knows I need to engage. And there’s the part of me that wants to rail against the situation, take my laptop, and go play somewhere quiet. Which doesn’t help kids who are looking for parental reassurance from Mom. Mom has a different place in their world than Dad does. I think that’s the case for most everyone: Mom is a little higher on the list when it comes to family and comfort.

I hit the jackpot with hubs, who sees the kids more than I do due to that pesky full-time job thing. He’s wonderful at talking with them (better than I am, honestly). I keep telling the kids they should be thankful he’s such a great dad. Eventually, they’ll realize it.

So, despite my intentions to kick ass on this new project this weekend to make up for the lack of writing this week, it seems that will be a bit of a struggle. Oh, and rumor has it the sun is supposed to come out this weekend for a day. A whole day.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

WOO-HOO!

I will enjoy as much sun as I can (considering it’s still a wee bit chilly to wear shorts and a t-shirt), and recharge my “happy” energy. And yes, take my laptop and go play someplace quiet.

PS to Marcia: my Muse is sending an applicant. Says the guy helped inspire all those Elvis beach movies and surfing movies. Your mileage may vary, but it sounds like he’s looking forward to testing the waves out your way 😀


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Now for something a little bit different #minnesota #spring #gardens

It’s time. I start getting seed catalogs around Christmas, and stash them until about now. I’ve been getting those pesky marketing emails from other seed catalogs too, but there’s something about looking through an actual catalog to feed thoughts of spring and warm and gardens.

Not that the past week has been miserably cold. It’s been downright balmy here with temps around freezing. Warm enough to make snowmen, and we have enough snow. Part of me is tempted to build a snowman for old times’ sake. Part of me says, “You know, you should be writing. Or at least cleaning.”

I know a lot of you like my garden posts, so I figured I’d share my pre-garden fun (because hey, why not?)

Every year when I plan my garden, I have the old standbys I always plant: tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, green beans, radishes, brussels sprouts. I always like to plant something new, or something I haven’t planted for a while.

Last year I got all my starts from the local greenhouse; I didn’t start any of my own seeds. That was convenient, but also restrictive: I’m limited to the varieties the greenhouse has. Which is fine, but I like particular varieties of some veggies, like peppers, onions, and tomatoes.

I don’t know what onion variety I planted, but the onions were far smaller than in previous years. I like the Candy variety, which are usually baseball-size or larger onions. I intended to plant sweet snacking peppers, but the variety I got at the greenhouse ended up being too spicy for snacking. The tomatoes were okay: the Early Girls did fine (but they are small tomatoes), but the other variety succumbed pretty quickly to the blight that plagues the garden. I thought I had gotten a resistant variety. I thought wrong, apparently.

Over the years, I’ve learned what veggies grow best, or at least which ones I have the best luck with. Every year is different. Last year was bad for tomatoes, meh for onions, but a great one for brussels sprouts and peppers.

Garden, 2019

This year I’m planning to buy some starts, like brussels sprouts and peppers, and start onions, tomatoes (some tomatoes anyway), and maybe kale.

For new stuff/stuff I haven’t planted for a while, a pie pumpkin is on the list this year. I haven’t planted pumpkins for years, because, like cucumbers or zucchini, one plant = lots of pumpkins. I’ve been thinking about making pumpkin bread, so what a great excuse 😀 I can bring the overstock to work and pawn it off on them 🙂

No zucchini, though. I think I cooked one zucchini all last summer, and brought the rest in to work. I can use that space for something else. This year on my “new” agenda is Persian cucumbers, if I can find seeds. Somewhere they were listed as the type of cucumbers you find in the store as those snacking cucumbers. We’ll see. I haven’t made pickles for years (I learned my lesson the year I pickled over 3 dozen quarts), but maybe I’ll do a dozen this year. Maybe.

I have to thin out the raspberry patch, too; they’re starting to choke out the asparagus (which also should be moved, or a new patch started). I love raspberries, but they spread! The problem is deciding where to move them: someplace close enough to monitor, exposed to sun, and not in an area we tend to mow. I know, with eight acres that might be a challenge 😀

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted on that front again. In the meantime, take a break and page through some seed catalogs. The pictures of flowers and veggies always reminds me spring is coming!


Check out my interview on #OperationAwesome #writingcommunity #amwriting #newbook #debut

If you haven’t been over to Operation Awesome, you are missing a great blog! Their Pass or Pages competition is a great opportunity for authors trying to catch the eye of an agent, as well as get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t in queries. They also have a First 50 Words critique program, which is invaluable when struggling with that all-important first page.

I’m over there today for an interview. Check it out, and stick around. You are bound to find some great stuff!


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First New Year goal = success! #amwriting #firstdrafts

YES! I did it! I finally finished my eighth (yes, my eighth start-over) first draft of Book 2! Woo-hoo!

Nobody’s around to see my Snoopy dance in my writing office.

“Ahem.”

Damn it. I can’t even celebrate finally reaching that elusive finish line by myself. “Really? C’mon, let me revel a bit. You know how long I’ve been working to reach the end of a draft for Book 2?”

“I’m well aware, love.” My Muse rests a hip on my desk and crosses his arms on his broad chest. He’s wearing a fisherman’s sweater in a powder-pale gray, along with dark gray lounge pants and slippers in the shape of …

“Are you seriously wearing koala slippers? They actually make those in your size?” I mean, I can see kids wearing koala slippers, but a grown man?

He sticks a foot out. “I have to support my fellow Aussies. Besides, they’re warm.”

O-kay. I admit, they are cute. I just never pictured a six foot-two inch tall, lean, muscular, oh-so-easy-on-the-eyes Muse with fuzzy koala bears on his feet.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, basking in the pre-revision glory of a finished draft. “You, ah, could go for a pub crawl with Mr. E.” I wonder if he’ll get the hint.

A crooked smile inches across his face. “In case you didn’t hear, love, there’s a major snowstorm raging outside through tonight. I think I’d rather hang out with my wonderful writer and work on her next project while she’s letting her shiny new draft rest.”

Ugh. “Fine. I have to rewrite the first chapter again anyway.”

An eyebrow arches. “Again? How many times have you done that already?”

“Erm, four. I think.”

My Muse rolls his eyes and sighs. “This isn’t going to be another Book 2, is it?”

I can’t resist. I stick out my tongue at him. “No. I know how this story will go. Mostly. Enough to get through the first draft, anyway. And I have to take two–wait, three more classes. Which reminds me, I have to sign up for one.”

His chest rises and falls with a deep breath. “You sure about that? Your daughter is home for the semester. Are you going to be able to focus on more than one thing?”

“She’ll work nights, just like she did over the summer and over winter break, so, yeah.”

He doesn’t look convinced. “Can you get the draft of this other project done before March? Because, as I recall, you have a lot going on that month. And,” he shakes a finger at me, “you will have to start revisions on Book 2.”

I drop into one of the corner recliners. “You sure know how to crash a party.”

“It’s not your first book, love. You know what you need to do.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.”

So, while the wind wages war with all those frozen water flakes outside, I’ll be working on my next project. Wait, I have some long overdue reviews to write, too. Maybe I can pull out my fresh new seed catalogs when I need a break instead of shoveling off the deck 😀

Have a great writing weekend! For all those in the path of this latest snowstorm, stay safe, stay warm!